Sophie is 8 months pregnant and happier than ever. She was filled to the brim with excitement about the baby even though sadness was looming in their village and some of the neighboring ones. Women had been disappearing the last two months and nobody knew what was going on. Charles was always on edge with worry about her but due to his responsibilities in the village he couldn’t stay by her side all the time and she was impossible to keep in the house.
Today he had to go out hunting. “Will you stay inside today?”
“Are you serious Charles? Look how sunny and beautiful it is! There’s no way I’m staying in here. if somone going to attack me they can get me in the house too you know.” Charles frowned looking more worried. She sighed “Just go, worrying wont protect me any and I’m sure they’ll figure out what’s happening to all the girls soon. Besides our darling wolf wont let anyone near me.”
The wolf raised his head, they’d taken to calling him Sjena. It meant shadow and he seemed to like it. The wolf was Charles’s hunting partner and Sophie’s escort. He was just as protective as Charles and hated when large men approached her. He thought they looked aggressive. “Are you sure?” Charles laid a hand on her round belly, feeling his child’s excited kicks.
“The baby loves when I go out. I’ll be careful, I won’t climb anything or go to fast.” She kissed his shadowed jaw.
“I’ll be back later then, I love you.”
“I love you too, now get.”
She waited until he was out the door before turning to Sjena. “Come on boy, we’re going out.” The wolf made a groaning sound and didn’t move. “Don’t you dare. I have been trapped in this house for three days because I fell out of a tree so get your fuzzy rump up and walk with me.” She glared at the beast until he huffed and stood. She walked outside, the wolf close beside her. It was so beautiful, crisp and cool. She loved the fall, the way the leaves changed and how clean the air smelled. Everything was getting ready for winter and the new beginning that followed. She walked through the village, waving at the vendors and stopping when a little girl brought her a crown of daisies. She bent down so the child could place it on her head. Sjena loved the children and gave the girl a quick kiss. Sophie wanted to go down to the lake.
She scratched Sjena behind his ears and said “Come on” They started walking twords the lake. When they finally got there she stepped into it. Sjena whined “I’ll be fine, Why did you have to become Charles jr huh?” He sat by the edge watching her. She knelt down to watch the fish swim by. They weren’t afraid of her so she got to see many when she was there. Charles had made a point to go out with her more until the women started going missing. Now he was back to always wanting her to be in the house.
Braches snapped and Sjena got up growling. It was just some children who were now very frightened. All the kids in the village loved Sophie and playing with her. “Don’t be afraid. He’s just on edge. He wont hurt you. Come on in with me.” They all ran twords her laughing. They played in the water a few hours until Sophie was exhausted. “Lets go home ok Sjena?” She walked all the children to their mothers then went home herself.
When Charles got home she said “See I went out today and I’m fine.” He laughed “I’m sorry, The attacks are so random. I just love you and our baby and want the two of you to be safe. The man doing it is sadistic. The one girl that was found had obviously been tortured by him. Who knows what he’s doing to the girls nobody ever finds.” She got up and hugged him.
“I missed you today. I know we weren’t apart long, but I really missed you.” She rested her head against his chest.
“I missed you too. It’s been such a long day. The midwife got her cat trapped under her house again. I had to wrestle the thing out and block off the hole. I’m glad we have that big fat lump of fuzz over there. He’s far too big to get stuck anywhere.” He said and Sjena whined. “Ok fine you’re not fat.”
“You should go out back and grab me some fire wood so I can make you something to eat.”
He kissed her, loving how soft she was. No matter how tired he was, her warmth and love always made him feel so alive. He went outside and around their house. He had already chopped a nice pile of wood. It was getting colder every day and he wanted Sophie and their child to have a warm winter. He grabbed a bundle of twigs and a few of the larger pieces and went back inside. He piled them in the fire place and Sophie used her magic to start a fire. “Are you sure you want to cook? I could make something.” He said as he sat down and tugged off his boots.
“Stop fretting. I’m pregnant, not crippled.” She smiled. “I do need you to put the pot over the fire so I can put water in it though.” He smiled, happy to help. She knew he would do anything to make her life easier. He was so sweet. “Thank you love now go relax and I’ll call you when dinner is ready. Take fluffy with you, he likes to stick his nose in the pot.”
She quickly made dinner then sat in the living room with her husband. “What did you do today?”
“Nothing much, spent most of it at the lake. Sjena scared some innocent children. They were coming to play with me and he started growling as soon as he heard them.” He scratched Sjenas head “Good boy” She laughed and shook her head. When they were done eating she crawled into Charlies lap and layed her head on his shoulder. He held her close kissing her forehead. “I’ll be home tomorrow but the day after that I’m supposed to go out looking again for where the man is taking the girls. We’re covering the woods we had to take Enzo through.” She sighed and he said “Wouldn’t you rather me spend my time out looking instead of here driving you crazy with my worry?”
“It’s cute when you worry.” He stood up and carried her upstairs after making sure the door was locked. Charles was really strong and could easily carry her. He was still the toughest man in their village which is why he stayed busy. They had wanted him to help with stuff tomorrow but he told them no. He made sure he had plenty of time for his wife. She and their unborn child were what ment the most to him.
The next morning they were woke by Sjena. He needed to use the bathroom. Charles glared at him, but got up and pulled his pants on anyway. He followed the wolf downstairs and opened the door. He bolted out, sniffing around. Charles closed the door, knowing he’d scratch when he was ready to come inside. He went back upstairs, sitting on the edge of the bed and just admiring Sophie. She was so beautiful, seemed to glow from the inside out. She still had slight bruising on her hip and ribs. He had worried for days about the baby after her spill and for the first time since they’d been married forbid her to do something. He brushed her hair off her forehead, his fingers moving down to her cheek. She stirred, her eyes drifting open, and smiled at him.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.” He said.
“I’m glad you did.” She sat up, her fingers tangling in his hair. She leaned forward, kissing him. A static shock moved between them and he jerked back. “Sorry, this baby is doing weird things to my magic.” He chuckled, his lips back on hers as he pushed her gently back down. He pulled the blankets back, revealing her nude form. He pushed his pants off, crawling on top of her and nudging her legs apart. He made love to her slowly, gently, savoring every breathy cry and whispered words of love. He loved the smell of her, the taste of her, and how she responded to his touch. She drove him up and over the edge and when the were finished all he could was rest his forehead against hers, trying to catch his breath. The sound of scratching caught his attention and he frowned. Sophie’s light laugh brightened his day.
“Oh go let him in or he’s liable to chew through the door.” She smiled.
“If I must.”
He reluctantly put his pants back on and let Sjena in. He ran back up the stairs to be with Sophie again. She was still laying there. Even now it still was breathtaking how beautiful she was. He couldn’t wait to meet their little girl. Last time they were visiting Enzo his mother told them they would have a girl. He hoped she wasn’t as pretty as her mother because he didn’t want to deal with all the boys. He was already a protective father even though she wasn’t here yet.
He layed down beside Sophie again and kissed her. “I wish there were words to describe how much I love you”
“You show me all the time. There’s no need for words” She smiled and he melted. He thought back to the man who helped them when they were on her journey to become an adult. Sophie did have him wrapped around her finger then and she still did now. “What would you like to do today Sophie?”
“Anything you want as long as it isn’t us staying home all day”
“We could go swimming. I remember you saying it took the weight off of your hips.” He rubbed his nose against hers.
“Sounds good, Sjena needs a good rinse anyway. He’s starting to stink.”
They dressed and Charles helped Sophie pack a basket with bread, cheese, and apples. Charles grabbed a couple of jerky strips for the wolf. They walked hand in hand to the lake, Sophie talking away. He loved listening to her voice, how soft a musical it was. She reminded him of a happy little bird, singing its beautiful song. Her other hand rested on her stomach. Sometimes she rubbed it, an action he didn’t think she was aware of. When they got to the lake he tossed Sjena a piece of jerky then hung the basket in a tree so he couldn’t get to the rest of it. He pulled off his boots and shirt and then helped Sophie into the water. Her dress clung to her as she lay back in the water, floating with eyes closed.
Sophie loved it here. The water was still warm despite the fast approaching winter. Elders liked to talk about a dragon that slept in the depths of the lake. While dragon’s were very much real, she knew it was heat vents open under the water. She could feel the earth’s blood moving anytime she walked barefoot. She heard loud splashing and opened her eyes. Sjena was swimming after a stick Charles had thrown in the water. She closed her eyes again, letting herself drift.
It was so relaxing out there. She was glad he actually agreed to leave their home. She hoped tomorrow they’d discover the man who was kidnapping women so Charles would be at ease. Her husband startled her a bit when he lifted her up and kissed her. “I’m sorry, I just had to kiss you”
“It’s ok, having fun with Sjena?”
“Yeah, he shouldn’t smell bad any more.” He lowered her back into the water and said “I’m going to hate being away from you all day tomorrow. Is there anything you’d like me to do before I leave in the morning?”
“Oh no, I’ll be fine.”
“Try not to get too far away from town please.” She laughed “I’ll try” Before long it was lunch time and they had their little picnic. She once again was a little chatterbox. He sat there happily listening and responding when she asked somthing. When they were done he asked “Would you like to go home?” She knew it was too good to be true that he’d want to be outside with her. She was happy he atleast went swimming without a fight though so she decided to go home without a fight.
By the time Charles opened the door and let her in, she was exhausted. He told her to go upstairs and relax while he made dinner. They had some meat left, a gift from the butcher after Charles had pulled his daughter out of the creek. He put it on the spit and found a jar of honey. He rubbed honey all over the meat then started a fire. He sometimes forgot how hard it was when he couldn’t just point and the wood burst into flame. He told Sjena to stay away from the meat or he’d sleep outside for the night then went upstairs. Sophie was laying there talking, her hands on her belly. She smiled when he entered the room.
“I was just telling our little angel about when we went up the mountain. She loves the part about the dragon and the necklace.” She said as he crossed the room and sat next to her.
“I hope she knows daddy didn’t like it at all.” He pulled her feet into his lap and rubbed them.
“Something smells good, what are you making?”
“That is a secret and you’ll have to stay up here until it’s done.”
He kissed her lightly then ran back downstairs to turn the meat. Sjena whined and he sliced off a piece, tossing it to him and smiling when he snatched it out of the air. “Good boy.” He said as he stared at the flickering flames. He turned the meat until it was done then grabbed one of their plates and put two big slices on there with some rolls. He carried the plate upstairs and sat down on the bed with Sophie. “Honey glazed pork and rolls.”
“You’re amazing hunny!” he sat down beside her and they ate together. “That was so good Charles, I’m so lucky to be your wife.” he laughed “No, I’m lucky” he grabbed her hand, gently rubbing it with his thumb. “I wish I didn’t have to leave you tomorrow.”
“I know but hopefully this will be the last time you have to look for the kidnapper. I’ll make sure Sjena is with me the whole day so don’t let me distract you.”
“You’re a distraction regardless. I’m always thinking about you when I’m not with you. How pretty your hair smells, your soft skin, how I feel when I kiss you. There’s so many ways you distract me.” Sophie smilled feeling special. Charles always made her feel so loved. He kissed her stomach and layed his head on it. “I want to meet our little girl so badly”
“It wont be long now. Just one more month.”
“I am worried about delivery. I hope it’s not too hard on you.”
“I’ll manage Charles. You worry about things too much. Women have been giving birth since the beginning of time.” They talked and enjoyed eachothers company until late in the night. He had to get some rest since he was going to be out all day tomorrow. They layed down and Sophie gently rubbed him until he dozed off then she went to sleep herself. He got up the next morning right as the sun was rising. He kissed his wifes forehead, got ready then went out the door.
As he walked down the road to meet the other men he had a bad feeling about that day but decided he was over worrying like always. Senja would make sure Sophie stayed safe. He needed a clear head. He was determined to find this guy. He had hurt so many families. The torment he was causing everybody had to be stopped.
Sophie woke to a loud banging sound. She slid of bed, throwing on a loose dress that fell in ruffles to her ankles. She walked as quickly as she could downstairs and threw the door open. There was a man standing there covered in sweat and dirt. He had a scared look on his face. “Please,” he said in a panic, “my wife fell in the forest and hit her head. Please help me.” Senja growled and she shushed him.
“Give me just a moment.” She pulled on her boots and grabbed her satchel. She made sure she had bandages, her salve, and her potions. She called Senja and the man gave the wolf a strange look. “I’ll follow you.” He led her away from the village and into the woods. He was moving far too fast and she asked him to slow down.
“She should be around here somewhere.” He said. Sophie helped him look, a strange feeling passing through her. She heard a yelp come from behind her and turned to see the stranger standing over Senja with a tree branch. He rushed her, his fingers around her throat before she could call on her magic. She realized as her vision blurred that she had made a terrible mistake.
Charles and the other men were bounding through the forrest. They couldn’t find anything strange as lunch time approached. They all stopped and started to eat the lunch they took. One of the men asked Charles “How’s that wife of yours doing? My daughter talks non stop about her.”
“She’s doing great. We’re both ready for the baby.”
“It’s a proud day becoming a daddy. Especially to a girl. I know with you as her dad all the boys are going to be afraid to talk to her. Even boys from other towns. it’s known pretty far how strong and skilled you are.” They kept talking until everybody was done eating and began the search through the woods again. Charlies bad feeling was getting worse and he wanted to finish so he could go home.
Senja finally woke up and looked around. Sophie was nowhere in site. Senja could smell her trail but deicded it would be smarter to get Charles to help. The wolf bounded off searching for his masters scent until he finally caught on to it and started heading twords Charles. The wolf was running as fast as he could worried for his female master Sophie.
Sophie was bound, gagged, and being dragged across the ground by a rope tied to her wrists. She looked up at the stranger. He was focused on where he was going. She started struggling, jerking on the rope as hard as she could. “Stop it.” He screamed. She felt tears in her eyes and she glared up at him. She started screaming, hating herself for being so helpful. She knew this had to be the kidnapper and feared what would happen to her and her daughter.
Charles and the men jumped to their feet, weapons drawn when the wolf broke through the brush. Charles recognized Senja and told the men to hold on. The wolf was limping and shaking. He grabbed onto Charles’s pants and tugged, whining louder. He knew something was wrong with Sophie. “Show me.” He said and wolf took off, Charles and the others followed.
Charles was in a panic. Maybe his bad feeling was right. The other men were lagging behind but Charlie kept pace with the wolf. When they got to town a little boy started yelling his name. Charles stopped for a moment which upset the wolf. Senja wanted him to keep going. The little boy asked “Who was that man with Sophie?” Charlies heart almost came to a complete stop. “What?”
“I was going to see Sophie this morning and she was leaving with a man. He went in the woods with her.” The boy then noticed Senja. “Hey wait Senja went with them what’s he doing with you.” Charles then knew exactly what was going on. Without saying another word to the boy he said to Senja “Lead me now!” The Wolf took off again and Charles followed. The wolf stopped where Sophie had been attacked and Charles noticed the drag marks.
Senja could barely move any longer “You did good boy, you can rest. Find sombody to heal your leg and then you can come help again ok? I’ll just follow the drag marks.” Senja took off twords the village and Charles ran following the drag marks on the ground.
The man pulled her into a cave where he let her go for just a second so he could pull back a rug with leaves tied to it for camouflage. There was a trap door beneath that he opened and lowered her into then followed. He grabbed a piece of rope and tugged on it. She heard a sliding noise from above and figured it was the rug sliding back into place. He dragged her through the darkness, the only sound their breathing. They came out into a dimly lit caver that had been made into a room. A sickly sweet iron smell hit her nose and she felt like vomiting. She closed her eyes tight, not wanting to see where it emanated from. He picked her up, laying her on something flat and solid. She felt something wet and sticky seep through her dress. He jerked her arms over her head and she was sure he was tying her down.
Charles rushed through the forest, following the drag marks. At times he had to stop because whoever had her had dragged her over rocks and through water. The kidnapper was trying to throw him off. The man had known he would be followed. His mind raced, filling with images of the one young victim and what had been done to her. Tortured by burning and cutting and beating. The kidnapper had wanted to hear her scream, hear her beg for mercy. He couldn’t help but wonder what he would do to a pregnant Sophie. Would he make her beg for the life of their daughter? Would he torment her? He was shaking so hard and was in such a panicked state that he almost went off the trail and missed the cave.
Next thing she knew he shoved some herbs in her mouth then covered it and plugged her nose to make her swallow. He whispered in her ear “You wont be using any magic for awhile. That stuff will keep you magic free for atleast a day. Can’t have you defending yourself. I do love the helpless look in a young girls eyes.” He laughed “I think I’m going to have the most fun with you. I’ll make sure that husband of yours finds you. I’ve heard so much about him. It fils me with such pleasure thinking about how much agony I’ll be causing him too.”
He sounded so delighted when he said “I may just knock little old Charles off his pedestal. Perhpad he’ll be drivin mad at the very least. I had always planned to snag you. Whenever his name is mentioned yours followed. I enjoy the pain of the husbands almost as much as the delicious screams of the girls.” She started crying again “Dry it up bitch! I haven’t even touched you yet.” She couldn’t stop and he came over and punch her hard in the face a few times. “Atleast now you have a reason to be crying.”
Senja was all healed and darted off to help his masters again which was good timing because Charles had just lost the trail to his wife. The killer had hiden it somhow. He was very near the cave where she was being kept but he didn’t know it. Senja darted through the woods folowing the smell of Sophie until he caught up to Charles. Senja ran right passed him but Charles was glad he didn’t stop and just followed. He knew Senja had her scent.
She felt him grip her dress and tear it open. She whimpered as his hands moved over her bare skin. He rubbed her round belly. “What would you do if I cut it out?” He asked. She shook her head. “Then open your eyes.” She did as she was told, staring up at him. He waved a knife in front of her face. He ran it over her cheek and she jerked her head away. He grabbed her face, his fingers digging into her skin. She felt the tip of the knife against her stomach.
Senja barked and pawed at the ground. Charles stared at the ground. He grabbed the leaves and pulled them back. There was a trap door. He pulled it open and jumped down into the darkness. He lowered Senja down to the ground. The wolf took off into the darkness. Charles had never wished more than now that he knew magic. He walked through the dark, his hand against the tunnel wall to guide him.
Sophie felt the knife bite into her belly and she started screaming and crying. She struggled against her bonds. He had an evil look in his eye and he slapped her. She was going to die, her daughter was going to die and it was her fault. Something furry flew over her, slamming into the kidnapper. She heard him scream and was able to raise her head enough to see Senja tearing at his arm. He stabbed the wolf in the side, once then twice and kicked him off. He ran toward the back of the cave, disappearing just as Charles came running out of the tunnel.
“Charles,” she screamed his name, “he stabbed Senja and ran. I think he stabbed me.” He was by her side and untying her, his eyes full of alarm.
When she was free she hugged him shaking with fear. He wanted to hug her longer but only allowed himself to for a second. He wasn’t going to let him get away. “I’ve got to go after him” She nodded and he took off. She got down to tend to Senja. She didn’t have powers but he didn’t take away her bag. She grabbed it off the floor and dressed his wounds as best she could. Her face was stinging. It was probably bruised from him punching her before.
She gently rubbed her beloved pet. She really wished she could cure the poor thing but no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t manage a spell. She made him drink some potion. Charles was running after the man until he finally saw him. The man noticed Charles was behind him. He had underestimated his speed. He thought the villagers had to be exagerating but they weren’t in the slightest. Charles would’ve loved to slice him in half right there but he just simply caught up to him and slammed him into the ground getting on top of him with his hands tightly gripping his throat.
“How dare you touch my wife.” He said filled with rage. He picked him up and threw him hard into a great oak tree. Before the man could react he plunged his sword through his chest. He got close to him and spit on his face. “You’re lucky to die this quickly. If she would’ve been dead when i got here you would’ve known much worse torture than what you did to those girls.”
He pulled his blade out and started running back twords where his wife was. He thought to himself “No wonder he was so slippery. That cave had two entrances and both of which were covered. He couldn’t get back fast enough. He had been so afraid. He had to make sure she was going to be ok. Her face had looked so bad.
“We have to get Senja out of here,” she said when Charles came back, “he’ll die if we don’t.” She was shaking as she stroked the wolf’s fur.
“Are you alright?” He asked.
“Don’t worry about me, we need to get out of here.”
He could tell she was in shock. He wanted so badly to hold her, to comfort her. He lifted Senja into his arms and walked into the front entrance. It would be quicker that way. Sophie gripped his shirt as he moved through the darkness. He raised Senja through the trap door then lifted Sophie up. He climbed out and slammed the door shut. He started walking, Sophie close and holding her dressed closed.
Sophie felt a strong, cramping in her abdomen. She gripped Charles’s arm, a small sound of pain escaping her lips. “We have to hurry.” She said.
“Are you okay?” He asked, pausing for a moment.
“Keep moving. I think the baby’s coming.”
“What?” Fear rushed through him. She still had another month. His mouth went dry, his heart hammering in his chest.
“I think the stress and the stuff he forced down my throat…” Another contraction rolled over her. “pushed me into labor. We have to hurry.”
Charles wanted to leave Senja. He knew the wolf would understand, but he also knew Sophie may never forgive him. They moved as quickly as they could, running into the men who had followed him into the forest and had been left behind in his haste. He handed one of the men Senja, ordering him to take the wolf to a healer. He lifted Sophie into his arms, running back to the village and to the mid wife’s house. He screamed for the older woman who answered with a speed that defied her age.
“She’s having the baby!” The midwife looked relived he had Sophie. Word had spread all through the village the kidnapper had her. Bring her inside and lay her down on the bed of the first room you come to. He layed his wife down “don’t leave me” She seemed a bit delirious. The mid wife had noticed the look on her face when Charles brought her to him. “What did he put in your mouth? What did it taste like?”
She yelled in pain “I don’t know, bitter and sweet at the same time. It was some sort of leaves I think.”
“This is going to hurt more than it has too sweetheart. He was not only making sure you coudn’t use magic but he heightened your senses. Probably to make you feel more pain during his torture.” Charlies looked even more upset. He was torturing himself thinking of ways he could have prevented her getting taken and hurt. Her delivering their little girl was almost too much for him to bear listening to her cry in pain.
Sophie screamed, every muscle in her body stiffening. Charles sat behind her, holding her hands and giving her something to push against. Sweat dripped off her nose and soaked her hair. She felt like she was dying. She tried to breathe through the pain. “One more push Sophie.” The midwife said, her tone was calm. Sophie pushed, gripping Charles’s hands so hard she was sure she was hurting him. He never complained, just whispered in her ear how much he loved her. A loud piercing cry filled the room and she collapsed against him. She was so exhausted. “Here she is.” The midwife lay the baby on her chest. Sophie was to weak to hold her so Charles wrapped his arms around both of them, cradling their daughter close.
“What should we name her?” He whispered in her ear.
“Victoria,” she whispered, “it sounds so beautiful.” Her eyelids grew heavy and she slipped into unconsciousness.
When she woke she was in her bed at home. She was so confused. She felt a weight on her chest and looked down. It was Charles, his head was pillowed on her chest and his arm was wrapped tightly around her. She managed to raise her hand and run her fingers through his hair. He jerked awake, his eyes widening and filling with tears when he saw she was awake. He kissed her, his fingers tangling in her hair. She could feel his tears on her face and he was shaking. “I thought I lost you.” He said, his forehead pressed against hers.
“What happened? Where’s the baby?” He pulled back to look at her.
“You almost bled to death and Victoria’s fine. Don’t ever scare me like that again. I would be nothing without you.”
She brushed away his tears. He looked like he’d been through hell and back, like he’d been dragged through the mud. She was so lucky to have him. “Can I see her?”
“Of course you can.” He slid off the bed and helped her to her feet. She winced in pain, but smiled up at him as a way to assure him she was okay. He helped her walk over to the round oak bassinet that had been delivered that night. Little Victoria slept peacefully within.
“She’s so beautiful.” Sophie felt tears slip down her cheeks. “Thank you for saving us, I love you so much. I can’t wait to hold her.” Charles helped her back to the bed.
“She should be waking up soon to eat. You should relax until then, you’ve been through so much.” He crawled in next to her and pulled her into his arms. He kissed the top of her head and stroked her arm.
“Did Senja make it?”
“He’s downstairs sleeping. The healer said there will be some nerve damage that he couldn’t fix. Senja will have a slight limp, but he’ll live.” She heard him swallow and looked up at him. He was crying. “Never again, Sophie. Never leave with someone you don’t know again. I was so afraid that I would find you dead. I had a nightmare while you slept that I lost you.”
“I love you so much Charles, so much more than you know.” She grabbed his face and kissed him. “I’m so proud to be your wife, to be the mother of your child. I will never leave you.”
They just lay there holding each other. Their future slept across the room, a promise of a new beginning.